Pictured (L-R): Randy Cottle, Trilogy Vice President and COO; Karen Evans, national cybersecurity expert and who named the lab with her husband, Dr. Randy Evans; Trilogy President and CEO Brandon Downey; and Josh Hall, dean of the Chambers College
The founders of an IT services company recognized by Inc. Magazine as the fastest-growing company in West Virginia have donated funds for the operational start-up of the cybersecurity laboratory at West Virginia University’s business school.
Trilogy Innovations, Inc., headquartered in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and with offices in Morgantown, West Virginia, provided the gift to cover startup costs of the Dr. Randy and Karen Evans Cyber Lab, located within WVU’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics. Brandon Downey, Trilogy President and CEO, and Randy Cottle, Trilogy Vice President and COO, both WVU alumni, said the gift would help advance the university, its business school, and its students to the next level in the highly charged and demanding world of cybersecurity.
Trilogy is nationally renowned for its cybersecurity expertise, with cyber customers ranging from the U.S. Government to small and medium-sized businesses across the nation.
“Our gift is all about providing unlimited opportunities to cybersecurity students at WVU,” said Downey, who earned multiple degrees at the university. “We want to advance the education for students studying in the cybersecurity field and help create stronger human capital for this sector. The demand is now because, as we all know, cybersecurity crime is on the increase.”
Cottle, who earned an undergraduate degree in management information systems (MIS) and a master’s in software engineering at WVU, served as vice president of the MISA (Management Information Systems Association) student organization when he was a student. He was also a student in the first cybersecurity class offered at the business school in 2004.
“Now we’re giving back to provide opportunities for students,” said Cottle. “Cybersecurity is now a minor with the MIS major.”
He added that he saw his future while at WVU and expressed gratitude that it actually came to life.
“When I was a MIS student in Dr. Graham Peace’s class, he asked us where we saw ourselves in five years,” Cottle said. “I always said that I saw myself owning my own business. Now, as a result of what I learned here at WVU, we’re able to give back to this institution and, specifically, to this cyber lab.”
Chris Ramezan, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity and Coordinator of the Master’s in Cybersecurity program, said Trilogy’s gift would be instrumental in several ways.
Trilogy Innovations President and CEO Brandon Downey, second from left, joins former Cisco executive chairman and CEO John Chambers, left, in talking to cybersecurity students at West Virginia University. Trilogy's gift to WVU's business school will provide operational funds for the thriving cyber lab.
“The gift first enabled us to purchase the networking and security equipment to establish a secure and isolated practice environment,” Ramezan said, “but it goes far, far beyond that. Students who are learning cybersecurity will not only learn in the classroom now. This is a game changer for students to conduct, practice, and simulate the environments necessary to learn the discipline. Cybersecurity is hands-on, and this lab is the differentiating factor.”
Ramezan said that part of the lab’s mission is to serve its land-grant mission by providing expert IT, networking, and cybersecurity outreach to small and medium-sized businesses in West Virginia. Karen Evans, a WVU business school alumna and who donated funds to create the lab with her husband, spoke to that part of the lab mission.
“This is for the future of the state. There’s nothing in this state you won’t use technology for, and these students will learn so much in preparation for their careers,” said Evans, Managing Director of the Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI) and a former U.S. Senate-confirmed, Presidential-appointed executive. She was the first-ever Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response at the U.S. Department of Energy and served in three Presidential Appointed positions in two Administrations.
“Businesses will need technology and cybersecurity people, and this applied learning lab allows students to work on real projects helping real businesses. There was a vision for this lab, and Trilogy and the faculty here have made it a reality.”
For Downey, who earned bachelor’s degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science and a master’s degree in Software Engineering, having the ability to give back in a meaningful way is the true reward. A student he met at the lab, Jared Icenhower, spoke of problem-solving, working with businesses, and honing his skills in the lab environment.
“The focus of the lab is the application aspect of learning,” said the senior from Jackson, Ohio, who recently completed a summer internship at KPMG in Boston. “This program has created skills we learn in class and then we apply them in a real-world setting. My resume shows how I applied skills in a working lab. When you can show that practical experience, it makes you marketable for your future career."
Listening to students talk about their activities in the lab prompted a broad smile from Downey. “The cyber lab has made students so much more advanced and prepared, and they’re also helping businesses in this state,” he said. “With the talent that is being cultivated here, I believe even more opportunities will surface here in West Virginia.”